Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The Lazy Person's Guide to Canning

It’s about that time of year when the canning trend pieces start popping up in newspapers and everyone starts thinking about getting on the preserving train but never really does. (Well, by “everyone” I mean casually crafty urban-dwelling young women?) Well, I’m here to tell you that canning is easy, so easy, and is something that can be mastered by even the laziest of ladies like, um, myself.

First, I’ll give you a quick rundown on the basics of canning. It sounds a lot more complicated when typing it out for internet readers, but the actual process is painless. After that, I’ll show you how to make a very simple blueberry jam. Perfect for impressing friends or making your mom giddy with excitement. 

Basic canning equipment:
- Water-bath canner with a canning rack. If you can’t find a “water-bath canner” you can use a large stock pot and get your hands on a canning rack. (Make sure that your pot is tall enough to be at least 2 inches taller than your tallest jar.) This is the one I have.
- Canning jars. I prefer Ball brand jars, but it's up to you. Make sure they are safe for water-bath canning. You can buy these either in “regular mouth” or “wide mouth” — in general jam and jellies are for regular mouth jars, and sauces, pickles, and larger foods are better for wide mouth jars.
- Canning lids. These are the metal circles that go on top of the jar mouth. Always buy fresh lids every time you can!
- Canning rings or bands. These are the metal bands that fit over the lid and the jar mouth. These can be reused from previous canning jobs.
- Wooden or plastic spatula. This is for getting the air bubbles out of your jar before processing.
- Plastic ladle. For ladling.
- Lots and lots of paper towels. Jam-making is a messy, sticky business. You’ll need damp, clean paper towels for wiping off the rims of your jars.
- Oven mitts and/or thick silicone dishwashing gloves. For the love of god! Get these.

Optional (but they make your life so much better!)
- Food scale. Most canning recipes go by weight, and this makes it easier to match your recipe to the canning instructions.
- Jar lifter. These are funny-looking tongs that save you from dropping your jars and/or burning your hands when getting hot jars out of your even hotter canner. This and all the items below can usually be bought in “canning sets.”
- Jar funnel. A large plastic funnel that makes it easier to ladle your food into your jars.
- Magnetic wand. Don’t get excited. This is just a small stick with a magnet at the end of it. This makes it easy for you to get your jar lids out of hot water.

There are two different types of canning: Water-bath canning and pressure canning. Water-bath is the easiest to do, so we’ll be using it here. Why go nuts? This is canning for lazy people, remember? Water-bath canning is safe to can high-acid foods (foods with an acidity of 4.5 pH or less). What does that mean? Basically you can water-bath can most fruits and vegetables that have been put into a highly acidic solution (like pickling). You cannot water-bath can non-pickled vegetables, meats, or fish.

Some of you might be worried that canning isn’t safe. Canning, WHEN DONE PROPERLY, is safe. Now, just because this is a lazy person’s guide doesn’t mean that we aren’t canning properly. It’s just that proper canning is really so easy, even a lazy person can do it. It’s a lot easier than making a cake or something.

There are three important parts of canning that you want to perform in order to make sure your food is safe for eating. First, you want your jars to be sealed properly. A jar becomes sealed when the rubber part under the jar lid heats up in the water-bath process and is then forced to cool down rapidly when removed from the canner and left to sit. The intense heat plus the cooling process creates a vacuum seal with the lid. Magic!

Another part of ensuring safe canning is making sure that your food reaches the correct internal temperature when inside the jar. This is why it is really, really important that you only start counting your process time once the water is boiling inside your canner (this will make sense later). You also want to make sure you have enough water above your jars inside your canner. (Usually 2 inches of water.) This will ensure that the insides of your jars have enough hot water circulating around them to allow them to cook properly.

The last part is cleanliness. Make sure you wash and sterilize your jars before using them to can something. Make sure you keep the rims of your jars clean and always use fresh lids. Always use fresh, unblemished food for canning. And never, ever use old decorative jars or jars from items that you previously bought for canning. Old jars often have cracks and jars from store-bought goods might not be proper jars for canning, even if they look like it. Just go buy new fresh jars. They're pretty cheap!

Now, on to our first recipe! I decided to start off with a very simple blueberry jam that requires no pectin. Pectin is an additive that you have to add to many fruit jams for them to get that jammy, jelly feeling. Since blueberries naturally have a lot of pectin, they don’t need the extra stuff, so it’s one less thing to buy. Also, blueberries are in season right now, so they're also pretty cheap.

(Also I didn’t just make up this recipe — I adapted it from a trusted canning source. Even if you're already an experienced canner, you should still follow recipes from trusted sources. The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is the gold standard, but there are a lot of good sources out there.)

Blueberry Jam
(adapted from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving)

What you’ll need for blueberry jam:
- 3 lbs fresh blueberries (about 5 pints)
- 6 cups sugar
- ¾ cup water
Yield: 6 8 oz. half-pint jars

That’s it!

Additional equipment:
- 6 half-pint canning jars
- 6 fresh lids
- 6 can jar rings
- Jelly pot or large, nonreactive pot (I like to use a large Le Crueset dutch oven)
- Candy thermometer
- Large spatula

Step One: Before you do anything, fill up your canner with water and fire it up on the stove. Canners take forreevveer to start boiling and you’ll need it to be at least near-boil by the time you are ready to process your jars. Start it up now because it will take 400 hours to even start simmering. This is the only annoying part of canning.

Blueberries preparing to be smashed.

Step Two: Wash and prep your fruit. Remove any stems and discard any blueberries that have bruises, cuts, or holes. Measure out 3 lbs. of fruit and begin crushing them with a potato masher or fork. Crush the fruit layer by layer. Set aside.

Step Three: Begin the jam-making process. In your jam-making pot, bring the water to a simmer. (This should be fairly quick.) Once the water is simmering, add your sugar and stir. Slowly heat up the sugar to 250º F/122º C, aka, the “hard ball” stage in candy-making. Stir often to avoid having the sugar burn. Your sugar should be boiling and making a lot of nice little bubbles.

Step Four: By now, your water bath canner should be starting to boil. Sterilize your clean jars by placing them in the water-bath canner for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, start a small pot of water on another burner on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Place your jar lids (but not the rings) into the pot. Simmer your jar lids for at least 10 minutes. This will make the rubber parts of your lids get nice and soft.

Step Five: Add your crushed fruit into the sugar mixture and stir again. Bring the mixture up to a boil and let softly boil for 15 minutes. Your fruit mixture should look like a thick syrup at this point. Keep in mind that this stuff will get thicker after the water-bath process. Once the mixture reaches desired level of jammy-ness, turn off the burner and remove the pot from the stove.

Step Six: Your jars should be sterilized by now. Multitasking! If your jars aren’t ready, that’s fine, just sterilize them now and keep your jam mixture simmering while you wait. Remove the jars from the canner and place them on a clean towel. Remove the hot jar lids from the stove and place the pot on a trivet or towel next to your jars.

Step Seven: You are now ready to can! Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Once you have filled a jar, immediately stick the small wooden (or plastic) end of a spatula handle into the jar and run it around the inside of the jar. This is to make sure that all the air bubbles are out of the jar. After you are done, immediately wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp paper towel. Using a magnetic wand or tongs, get the jar lids out of the warm water and place one on top of your jar. Place a metal band around the jar and screw gently, not tightly. Repeat this process with all the jars. If this process sounds really complicated, it’s not. Watch this great video about canning and see how easy it really is.

Example of ¼ headspace on half-pint jar.

Note: If you have leftover jam, put it into a plastic container or a leftover jar and keep it in your fridge. You can eat this immediately and don’t need to process it.

Step Eight: Using a wire canning rack, place your jars into the water bath canner. Make sure that there is at least 2 inches of water above your jars. (Add boiling water if needed.) Bring the water up to a rolling boil, cover, and process for 10 minutes. Once done, turn off the stove, let the water stop boiling, and remove the jars from the canner using a jar lifter or tongs. Set aside on a counter to cool for 6 – 12 hours.

Step Nine: Test your seals! Once the jars are completely cool, you should test the seals. Often, jars will make a “pop!” sound while cooling, which is good since it means they are sealing correctly. Push down on the middle of the lids and see if the middle pops back up. If it doesn’t pop back up, the jar has been sealed correctly. Congratulations! If it does pop back up then your jar has not been sealed correctly. Move the jar to the fridge and use immediately or discard.

Step Ten: Label your jars with the date and contents and move them to a dry, dark place. I like to keep mine in the back of a closet or under my couch. Yes, it is weird, but it works!

This whole process, from start to finish, will take up a good chunk of a day, but you don’t need to be slaving over the stove for most of it. Watch that Walking Dead marathon while you wait for your water to boil. Browse the internet while your jam processes. It’s easy.

Jam that has been properly canned will last for up to one year.

Now you know the very basics of canning. You can strut around your local farmer’s market with confidence and ease, knowing that you — yes you! — are capable of canning. You can give your canned goods out as gifts to your friends and loved ones and smile with pride as they fuss over your fancy foodstuffs. Little do they know that it is actually a very easy thing to do. Shh, don’t tell them.

Maria Mercedes Lara is an editor at Wetpaint. She cans while watching Law & Order: SVU reruns. 

114 Comments / Post A Comment


I love cooking, and I loved canned things, but I am afraid of canning (klutz+boiling water+heated glass=inevitable disaster involving SarahP) so I just make small batches of refrigerator pickles and jams. Your recipe sounds so great, though! Maybe I'll scale it down and just keep it all in my fridge.




AAAAAAAH I had a canning rack and threw it away last week! I didn't know what it was! Augh!


@wallsdonotfall I'm totally kicking myself because when I was at the canning demo last weekend I learned what all the odd kitchen utensils at my grandparent's house were. Like the canning funnel, grabber, rack, etc. The ones I didn't bring home because I didn't know what they were or where I'd put them. Sigh.

I also learned why there were boxes of paraffin wax all over the damn place. I don't ever remember my grandmother canning, but according to my mom, my great grandma canned everything, all the time. They shared a duplex, and were solidly lower-middle class, so they lived off of Mimi's garden.

Porn Peddler

Ooooh I want canned blueberries now.

Is it terrible that when it comes to canning rhubarb it's so fucking high acid that I just simmer it with little sugar and throw it in a jar for 15 minutes of processing?... That shit is practically poison, whatever, it'll be fine.

(I can things properly but with basically none of the "proper" tools. Magnetic wand? Bah. Jar lifter? Pffft, gloves and tongs! Canning rack? Steamer rack! But you know what? I feel so much better about this when someone at a potluck is like WHATEVER I JUST DO WAX CANNING/OPEN KETTLE CANNING)


@Porn Peddler My aunt AND my mom just disclosed that they boil their jars, fill them, then just turn them upside down on the counter to seal. I found this horrifying. Germs in the air! On your funnel! Ugh. Then they made fun of me when peaches exploded when I took it out of my water bath canner this weekend.


@billie_crusoe OH G-D THAT METHOD IS SO SCARY AT ME. No no no no no do not want, not safe, botulism go away.

@Porn Peddler, the idea of wax canning gives me hives. NO NO NO some more. Question: how do you eat rhubarb anything that hasn't been liberally doused with all the sugar? Because it's so bitter! I mean, botulism, yes, a concern, but also, if not enough sugar then terribly bitter?


@stonefruit Botulism is real. AND SCARY. I do not understand people who are not afraid of this. Citric acid is everyone's friend.

Porn Peddler

@stonefruit And people get so snippy about it! "WHATEVER I HAVE NEVER HAD A PROBLEM" there's an 80 year old man ten feet away that has been smoking since he was 15. would you not say he is lucky as hell?

I like to put it in smoothies and pies and cakes! I use way less than the amount of sugar frequently recommended in rhubarb sauce recipes but still a decent amount. So I know it's not susceptible to botulism and I also know its not disgustingly sweet. I don't have a big sweet tooth so all that sugar gaaaaaah


@Porn Peddler Yes! They get all superior about how maybe they don't follow the rules, but THEY'VE never gotten botulism, so clearly you are an idiot for making extra work for yourself.

OK, mom, you also drank unfiltered stream water for 30 years before you got giardia. Hope you enjoyed your giardia.


@Kirs AMEN lady. I don't either. A friend just asked me for advice on cutting out the sugar when she makes jam, because diabetes (she just finished getting her MPH and is kind of evangelical about sugar being the devil). I was like, okay, yes, diabetes, legitimate health concern, for sure. BUT HAVE YOU HEARD OF BOTULISM AND ALSO ITS TERRIFYING SYMPTOMS. There are recipes for low-sugar/no-sugar jams, follow them if you must, but none of this cavalier "let's just reduce the sugar by 25-30% for this regular old jam recipe, tra-la-la" attitude towards terrifying toxins.

@Porn Peddler - I will cut the amount of sugar when I am baking rhubarb, too, I suppose. Good point. But it can be sooooooo bitter! Bitter like gall! /Chaim Potok

Why are we talking about giardia :(


@Porn Peddler One of my friends ate pickles from a jar that had an outie lid (store-bought!) and I freaked out and made him call the poison control center immediately. A kindly nurse informed us that acidic things like most jams and pickles will never develop botulism because the environment is too acidic. You still get food poisoning though!

Botulism mostly will live in low or no-acid environments like tomato and meat sauces, vegetable things that aren't pickled etc.


@billie_crusoe That method is called open kettle (except needing to turn the jars upside down is a myth). It used to be considered safe for high acid stuff, but now is not recommended by the various authorities like the Ball people and county extensions.

I still do it though, for jam and pickles and chutney, unless I'm teaching someone how.


@branza Or jam where people decide to reduce the amount sugar listed in the recipe. My understanding is that the sugar acts as a preservative on the fruit, and without the correct fruit to sugar ratio, botulism is still a very real risk. I'm sorry to be a scold about this! But botulins are potentially-lethal toxins, and playing fast and loose with them (or telling people not to worry about them!) just scares my pants off.


@Porn Peddler Not to make light of botulism, but it can't grow in an acid environment, which is why high-acid fruits and pickles are safe to preserve in a water bath. It takes pressure-canning temperatures to be sure of killing it off, but it can't grow in acid food anyway. And jams that are 66% sugar by weight (basically starting with the same weight of sugar and fruit) will keep even without being airtight. You still SHOULD seal them, of course, but your friends aren't going to die unless they get any bright ideas about preserving vegetables in a water bath. Non-acid food is scary.


I think I'm going to have to start canning things. My grandmother did it all the time, and I think my sister learned how to from her but never does it. (My sister is also much older than me, so I was too young to learn when she did.)

I think my mom would be pretty stoked if I started doing this. I have a friend who does, and if it's easy...think of all the people I could impress for birthdays and Christmas and stuff.


@Statham I just really, really love the idea of Jason Statham canning. Where would he put his gun while he cans? He's also probably bleeding. That should not get in the jam.

Bibo Designs@twitter

I love canning! I did it a lot when I had my parents' huge kitchen at my disposal, but not so much in my teeny apartment.

My tips:

*Ace (Hardware) is the place! I got my big ugly canning pot from them, as well as a canning kit and jars for pretty cheap.
*Jar lifters are essential, in my experience. The first time I canned I was like, "Psshh, I don't need no fancy jar lifter! I'll use silicone oven mitts and a spatula when I lift the slippery glass jar out of boiling water!" *SPLASH* BOILING WATER EVERYWHERE *BURNED SKIN*
*A lot of canning recipes are super, super sweet. You don't need four cups of sugar when making strawberry jam, for example. I have a lot of diabetics in my family, so I usually made "no sugar added" jam with just the natural sugars in the fruit and they were a lot better than the original recipes.
*One day I'll tell you about the time I went to make marmalade, got too engrossed in the Real Housewives, stopped watching the thermometer, and ended up essentially making a jar of Grapefruit Jolly Rancher! Then, mislabeled the jars so I accidentally gave the Jar of Hard Candy away as a Christmas gift!
* On the subject of Christmas gifts, make a fuck-ton of jam and jelly in the summer, then come December you'll be like, "Sweet! I don't have to buy gifts! I can give out jam gift baskets!"


@Bibo Designs@twitter Yes to all of that! My aunt and uncle (who I live with) were all, "WHAT are you going to do with 30 jars of jam?" this weekend. CHRISTMAS PRESENTS, of course.


@Bibo Designs@twitter oh dear heart, we are the same person.

Me: "I don't need a jar lifter! I'll just put rubber bands around the ends of the tongs to provide some friction!"
Life: splash, splosh, boiling water all over the kitchen/stovetop, bouncytime for the jars.

Me: "Magnetic wand? I don't need no stinkin' magnetic wand." (mutters darkly about single-use kitchen devices)
Life: ::mocks me by making the little lids deviously slippery and impossible to fish out with forks and tongs::

I would like to hear more about Jar of Hard Candy for Christmas, though, that sounds effing delightful.


@stonefruit Mine is, "Oh this water is not THAT hot, I can definitely fish the lids out with my fingers." Nope.

Maria Mercedes Lara@facebook

@billie_crusoe This is why I love to can. Gifts! I can so much stuff in the summer/fall and then get rid of most of it by Christmas time. People love home-canned goods. It seems so much more fancier than it actually is!


@Maria Mercedes Lara@facebook Also fun: when you have other canning friends and get to trade. You get twice as many flavors!

Bibo Designs@twitter

@stonefruit So I wanted to be a Good Stepdaughter and make grapefruit marmalade for my stepmom who loves grapefruits, right? So I spent an hour and a half scraping the pith off an entire grapefruit peel for the stupid marmalade. Got all my ingredients together. They were on the stove, with candy thermometer clipped firmly on.

Then, I glance at the TV and think, "what are those craaaaaazy housewives doing now?" Two minutes later, notice the temperature on the thermometer is way higher than recommended, figure it's not a big deal. I try to pour the concoction in the jar and it's like gummy frozen molasses. "It'll all work out when sealing!" I think. When it's done sealing, I open it just to see how it is and my knife won't go through. It was like literally trying to stick a butter knife in a jar-shaped jolly rancher.

For some idiotic reason, I put it on the counter near my jam stash. Come December, I'm like, "Oh, this must be the peach jam!" I label it so, and send it away to my Aunt & Uncle in a gift basket. Like six months later, they tell me that the stupid mislabeled Jar of Hard Candy was the first jam they opened on Christmas morning. They couldn't get the knife to go through, and the entire family apparently laughed raucously at how terrible I was at making jam. They didn't eat any of the other jams in the gift basket because they figured I fucked up all of them even though the rest were fine. :/ :/ :/


@Bibo Designs@twitter oh. oh dear. I laughed and then I stopped laughing very quickly and my face got very sad. I'm sorry. :/ :/ :/, indeed.


@Bibo Designs@twitter Noooo. It was hilarious until they decided you were a bad jammer and didn't eat the rest :( (What were they thinking? I would at least open one more jar to try before throwing them out!)


@Bibo Designs@twitter And now I've got me a Dolly Parton earworm. "Gonna be fiiiiiine and daaaandy. Lord, it's like a hard caaandy Christmas"


Yessss! I just made 20 million jars of jam / marmalade / lemon curd this weekend.

If you're new to canning: Do your research before you move beyond jam and pickles. I have never had problems with jams (except having them not set occasionally, which is why you should follow recipes at first) or pickles, but I had a can of peaches AND a can of lemon curd explode (not really explode, the lid popped off. Well, one jar has a giant crack, so maybe it actually exploded) in my canner this weekend, even with more than enough headspace. I'm not entirely sure what all went wrong. As much as I love canning, some things are just easier to freeze.

Anyway, this lemon curd is my new favorite thing. Don't bother canning it, though, just eat it all. http://www.foodinjars.com/2010/01/meyer-lemon-curd/


@billie_crusoe Yeah, I just found out that you have to use canned lemon curd within 3 months? Like what is the point of canning it at that point? Refrigerate that stuff.

ALSO, I had a whole set of 9 jars where the lids, the ones that came with them in the flat? No good. Just did not seal, regardless of immaculately clean jar-tops and correct processing time/conditions. Moral of the story, always have a box of the extra lids on hand.


@stonefruit Agreed. Maybe can it right before Christmas to give as gifts? But otherwise, not worth canning. It lasts a year in the freezer.

I'm still mad about the jar I lost to the canner (FOUR WHOLE OUNCES OF DELICIOUSNESS, gone to waste).

Maria Mercedes Lara@facebook

@billie_crusoe I love Food in Jars! And this is good advice!


@billie_crusoe Lemon curd has never lasted more than about 4 days, max, in my household.


@billie_crusoe I've had one can explode. Seems to be a thing with the jar contents cooling off too much before you pop it back in the water bath, so when it heats back up and expands, the pressure inside climbs and the jar gives out.

It hasn't happened again since I started superstitiously keeping the hot jar in a bowl of hot water while I fill it, but that has probably just as much to do with the fact that I fill jars a whole lot faster than I used to.


A friend of mine asked me this past weekend what I did with all the jam I make, and I told him I usually give it away as presents to family members (brotherstonefruit eats the stuff with a spoon) and service providers (hairdresser, aesthetician, massage lady). He then asked me if I found I got better service after providing jam, and I had to tell him that no, I didn't necessarily find that. THEY STILL LIKE THE JAM, THOUGH, because who doesn't like jam! And homemade jam is just terribly impressive, though for no good reason other than the recipients of the jam haven't ever tried making it themselves.


@stonefruit "impressive, though for no good reason other than the recipients of the jam haven't ever tried making it themselves" -- meaning, it's not as hard as people think it is, although it can be precisely as annoying and time-intensive as people think it is. I'm not sure I would call it a lazy-person activity? But I think I get what you're saying.

Anyway, I recommend roping a friend into the process, it makes things go a lot faster. Also, lots of down time for chatting!

And, yes, the water-bath canner takes forever to start boiling, but what works for me is to get up, fill the pot with hot tap water, turn on the stove, and get in the shower. Usually the water is starts boiling about an hour after I turn on the stove, at which point my workwife/canning partner has gotten there, and then we clean the jars and put them in the water to boil while we prep the fruit, etc.


Nope, this is still insanely complicated to me. Oh wells.


@hijabeng Yeah, I'll be down here, like 15 steps down the lazy ladder.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@hijabeng Haha...I'm glad I'm not the only one. I got overwhelmed just looking at the list of stuff I'd need to be able to can anything.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@sudden but inevitable betrayal Yes! So much stuff I would have to buy! No thank you. Making AND DECORATING a cake would be easier for me.


@hijabeng I know it's not canning, which is technically the title of this article, but I took one look at that list and declared, "how about that there freezer jam?" Steps: mash up fruit; add sugar; add boiling water-pectin; allow to sit; place in freezer, continue to allow to sit. How... how does anyone make jam that is *not* freezer jam?


@ThatWench Obviously, the above is "how", but you probably meant "why, why punish yourself with the hard method"


I am a canning fiend. (see: http://www.eiffeldesigns.org/post/13998538014/a-seasons-worth-of-canning-pickling-and-jamming)

I started two summers ago and went nuts last year. I've already made garlic scape pesto this season and will shortly be moving into pickling. I'm limiting my jam making this year because I just don't use it (except for my tomato basil jam, which I would eat by the bucket if possible).

But various pickling (cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, carrots, turnips, etc...), small batch jam, and jars and jars and jars of tomato based products are in my future.



Also, I pickled garlic scapes and fiddleheads, because lately I have been going bonkers on summer produce and pickle anything that can't run away from me.


I really want to get into this, I just can't get past all the dang equipment you have to buy. I guess my laziness takes the form of not wanting to spend money/find a place for all this crap.


yeah, define "lazy person." I cook a lot and freeze some seasonal/farmers market type stuff, but this is way too much.


ah, also, sorry for the serial commenting, but you can make your jam look even prettier with the following trick:

After you take the pot off the stove, let it sit for 5 minutes. During that time, skim off as much foam as you can (put the foam in a small bowl and save it for a snack when the jars are processing, maybe to eat with cheese - it will be delicious!), and stir the fruit mixture maybe once each minute for a few seconds. I skipped that step for so many years because, come on, right? But the last few batches I did that, and the fruit is much more evenly distributed and the jam looks even more impressive, if that is possible!


@stonefruit (Also serial commenting.) Thanks for the tip! The fruit rose A LOT in my last batch, and it made me kind of sad.


@stonefruit Question (since you seem to know these things :) ): does Apple Butter count as jamming (mahaha) or is it one of those "wait till you've canned a bit before you try this" things... Because I like jam but...Apple Butter *looks into distance wistfully*


@Burly-Q "Apple Butter *looks into distance wistfully*" awwww that's how I feel about apricot jam :) I think apple butter comes under the heading of canning although perhaps not jamming? Certainly my go-to cookbook for jam and jam-related endeavors (Blue Ribbon Preserves) has several recipes for it. I bet you could pull it off! The only thing about apple butter is, you're actually making apple sauce first (cut skin-on apples in quarters, remove seeds/middle bits, boil until mushy in a pot with either water or apple juice, and then press through a food mill) and then ... um, well, you add the sugar and the spices and you just have to cook it down and down and down for like 3 hours. It is very time-intensive and very messy (think very viscous burping liquid). I did it twice last year, but I was unemployed during that period, so I had some extra time on my hands.

I keep hearing about crockpot apple butter, and it may well be worth looking into that. It certainly can't be more messy, and the thought of waking up to spicy appley goodness is pretty darn tempting!

If you go stovetop, I will say that as An Aspiring But Not 100% Successful Clean Person, I was very worried about how to clean up the bits of apple butter that got on the backsplash (wall, really) behind my stove, but they came right off and required very little scrubbing.


@stonefruit Well time is kind of perfect because I am unemployed at the moment, recuperating from surgery at my parents' house (bigger kitchen than mine!!), and have nothing to do except knit right now (Its not like I'm going to *work* on my thesis right now, psshhh) I too have heard of the mystical wonders of Crockpot Apple Butter... hmmmm maybe Crockpot it up and *then* can it? I will have to research this a bit more...


@stonefruit and viola! http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/apple_butter/

*Simply* recipes, mmmhmmm


@Burly-Q I've never made reallly real jam but have made apple butter a few times. I feel like it's actually easier?


@Burly-Q Apple butter is totally easier imho because apples have so much pectin you don't have to worry about it not "setting" like with other fruit jams. It was the first thing I ever made and canned and it turned out wonderfully.


@Burly-Q apple butter and applesauce are super easy, especially if you have golden delicious apples, which turn to mush as soon as heat is applied.

all the bacon and eggs

I do not think the word "lazy" means what you think it means.


How long does the can of jam last once I open it and it is in my refrigerator? I hope forever and ever, because a friend gave me some jam that I opened and used about half of and I'm betting it's probably way past time to throw it away, but I really don't want to.


@HeyThatsMyBike I don't know the answer because jam never lasts more than a couple of weeks at my house, BUT I would think as long as it's not growing mold, it's OK?

UGA says one month, and "Note: For safe eating practices, store your opened jar of jam or jelly in the refrigerator until consumed, and examine it frequently for signs of spoilage (like mold or yeast growth, or off-odors, including “fermented,” “alcohol” or “yeasty” odors). Discard the product immediately if any signs of spoilage are detected." So I'm going with, "If it's not growing shit / it smells OK, eat it."


@billie_crusoe my host mom in Russia tried to convince me that it was okay for me to eat her homemade, fermenty-tasting, mold-covered blueberry jam. sadface. I didn't get sick, but I did tell her after the first spoonful that I just didn't care for blueberry jam. Oh the lies we (I) tell.


@billie_crusoe That's generally my philosophy, and the results have been "longer than you'd suspect."


@Ophelia Good. Off to make a PB&J so long as I don't see mold!


@HeyThatsMyBike I feel like the sugar content's high enough that it'll make you drunk long before it makes you sick.

@Ophelia Exactly. As long as it's not "oh we just sweeten it with lemon juice!" hippie jam, it'll turn into wine. Which, we all know, is amazing.


@S. Elizabeth Yes! I have eaten strawberry jam that started to ferment on a long backpacking trip, and it was actually good! Kind of hard cider-y tasting.


@S. Elizabeth Man, jam that gets me drunk?? Maybe I'll just continue to let it sit!


Nope, that's not "easy." It doesn't take any special training (just special equipment, natch), but it is complicated and time-consuming.

Something can be fun and worth the effort without having to be "for lazy people tee hee."


I think there is perhaps not a universal calibration for "easy". This makes me feel panicked. By virtue of requiring special equipment, this is difficult. This still seems fun. I really love cherries. I also did not know you could can meat. I don't eat meat so canning it would be silly but I still like the idea of beef in a jar.


@FoxyRoxy Yeah, I think the specialized equipment sends it over the edge for me. I would totally try canning if someone else had all the special gear. And the experience. I think I would be all over a canning class/party at someone's house. That sounds super fun! But just me, in my apartment, trying to learn how to do something that could potentially cause serious health issues if I did it wrong? Doesn't sound that easy to me.


@WhiskeySour I would totes be into a canning party with someone more experienced. I am afraid a glass will explode in my face if I try this in my apartment. I'd love to can tomato sauce. And cherries, of course.


@FoxyRoxy the bummer about cherries is that you have to pit them. SO ANNOYING. The first time I made cherry jam, I forced my workwife to use the paperclip method with me. She put her foot down after that and so this year I bought a cherry pitter, grumbling all the while about (sing it with me) single-use kitchen gadgets. It still took an annoyingly long time!


@stonefruit A citrus reamer, garlic press, and a cherry pitter are the few single-use kitchen gadgets that I have no quibble with. Worth it (and don't take up much space). Don't feel bad!


@FoxyRoxy I'm glad I'm not the only one. I looked at the list of stuff I needed and immediately felt so nervous. Plus I have virtually no counter space.


This may be the lazy person's guide to canning, but FREEZER JAM is the lazy person's..guide to jam. That sentence got away from me. The moral of the story is freezer jam though. That stuff is the best.


@maiasaura Did it perhaps go a little wibbly-wobbly?


@TheCheesemanCometh Yeah, something about it just wouldn't set right.


@maiasaura So many puns on this article.

I've read that you can't keep freezer jam for as long once you thaw it (vs. after you open canned jam) because it's more likely to separate quicker. Which is not a problem for me because I can eat it out of the jar with a spoon, but if you don't go through jam quickly, use small jars?

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@TheCheesemanCometh Only if her thingy goes ding when there's stuff.


@billie_crusoe One of my greatest childhood food fondnesses was the backyard raspberries that became raspberry freezer jam. My father made it using tons and tons of small not-tupperware containers, never more than a pint per container (and probably usually less). Also, I'd be super anxious about putting glass in a freezer?


Or just skip all this and make refrigerator pickles. You'll eat them all before they go bad anyway, and they take about 5 minutes.


@Ophelia Yes, refrigerator pickles, refrigerator carrots, the list goes on and on! That's the TRULY lazy person's way.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@Ophelia I'm interested in receiving your newsletter.


@sudden but inevitable betrayal In short:
Take about 1 cup of white vinegar, plus chopped garlic, dill seed, celery seed, and whatever other spices you like, add a little turmeric for color, and add a little sugar if you don't like sour pickles (I usually don't add sugar, because I like them mouth-puckeringly sour).

Simmer in a saucepan.

Take a clean jar (whatever jar you have handy, I often just use old pickle jars), and put some sliced-up cucumbers (or other veggies) in it - either rounds or spears, though spears will take slightly longer to turn into pickles. The faster you need them to be "done" the thinner you should slice them.

Pour the vinegar mixture (you can strain it, or not) into the jar so it covers the pickles. Let stand, hot, for about half an hour until it cools enough to touch the jar.

Put it into the fridge.

Wait anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight depending on how thick your pickles are.

Eat. (within about a week, but I've never had them actually last more than a couple of days, what with wanting to eat them immediately)

Die because you love pickles so much.



@Ophelia My dad is the master of refrigerator pickles. He adds onions when he pickles the cucumbers, too!


@meetapossum OOH, good idea! I'm definitely doing this next time.


@Ophelia See, I am even lazier and don't boil anything. Just let whatever you're making soak in the vinegar mixture for a few hours, it gets plenty pickled that way.


@bitzyboozer Right, what is the point of the boiling? It doesn't seem to be about sanitizing, and aside from dissolving the sugar, none of the flavor-combining-actions seem like they'd be all *that* accelerated by the boiling?

Valley Girl

I love this! My mom and I just made this recipe for Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate.

A few weeks ago, my sister, my bff and I went to Knott's Berry Farm and I found an awesome lapel pin of a JAR OF STRAWBERRY PRESERVES so I was like "This is so cool, because I'm into canning!" and my bff was like "You're the world's biggest dork" and I was like, whatever, I'm putting it on my pocketbook so I can see it and think of canning all the time and maybe it will motivate me to do it more. It IS easy, easier than even friendly guides like this can make it seem, but ugh, so many dishes!


@Valley Girl I want one!


For all those who are balking at the equipment and whatnot- find a friend who has the equipment and spend a day canning with them. Either you'll love it and want to immediately go buy a pressure cooker- or you'll hate it and will know its not for you

Personally I just went nutters and bought all the equipment and started canning knowing that I like projects and doing weird things that my coworkers find perplexing. But my friend Kate wasn't so sure. So she came over for a day last summer and helped me can tomato sauce. She was hooked. She didn't buy a pressure cooker like me (I have the space and, again, am insane) but a simple stock pot and a few other things and she's on her canning way.


Came down to say, I just went to a canning demonstration this Saturday, and I'm totally stoked to try it. I've always been scared I'd blow something up or kill everyone, but I'm gonna do it, damnit!!

On a side note, almost typed "caning" demonstration which would be way too 50 Shades for me.


Question about the Blueberries: how perfect do they have to be? Because every time I buy them about half of them seem to be imperfect in some way (maybe that's just Texas versions? Which I'm sure is the only kind I get geographically to where I live) Should I just buy more than three pounds and hope I get enough perfect berries?
Also- I totally want to do this with rhubarb! I recently discovered the awesomeness of it (I live in the deeeeep south) and want it all the time and everyday now...


@Burly-Q I don't use them if they're mushy or obviously past their prime (those go straight into my mouth). I bought a pint the other day at the grocery store (so not just-picked) and only threw out maybe 10 berries? And I've never had problems with my jam going bad.

Rhubarb: Do it! I love rhubarb! It's also a fun flavor to add herbs to and experiment with.


I Just Now finished making a batch of cherry jam. Yay for canning!
But yo, steam canners are way easier, less messy, and better than the water bath. Amazon has them...
And an immersion blender is lazier than crushing with a fork. Also, skim the foam is a good idea, I just forgot and am kicking myself.


@ru_ri Hmm. I hadn't heard of steam canners before, so I looked around and found this article -- http://www.foodinjars.com/2011/01/canning-101-should-you-use-steam-canners/ -- which was kind of a bummer because I love the idea of using less water/gas to make jam.


@stonefruit We only make jams and pickles, and sterilize everything beforehand. In my opinion, as long as you are filling (sterile) jars with hot liquid, the jam gets just as hot as in a boiling water bath. There is a comment on that article from someone who teaches a food preservation class, and she uses a steam canner. Anyway, we have used a steam canner for years without problems, but I understand wanting to stay on the safe side!


the best part of canning IS THE PUNS! we be jammin'! jam session! or the time i steamed myself and it blistered and my friend got scotchbonnet in her eye and it was forever referred to as the time we jammed too hard. the best.


@anothergirlanotherplanet I bet that was a bit jarring.


You can buy jam sugar with the added pectin! It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.


I don't think this is HARD, but the idea of boiling a gigantic pot of water is making me woozy. (For comparison, I've started making single servings of pasta in the microwave.) Summer is balls.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@anachronistique Oooh, good point. Let's table canning till the weather calms down.


@anachronistique Microwave pasta? Say more...


@TheLetterL Pyrex dish with a wide, flat bottom. Make sure your pasta is arranged more or less flat and even across the bottom - for spaghetti, break it in half or whatever. Add water to about a half inch above the pasta. Microwave for about as long as the stovetop cooking directions say, and feel free to add an extra minute or two. And drain! Just be warned that the water may boil over, which can leave a starchy pool on the bottom of the microwave.


@anachronistique Amazing. Trying this out ASAP!


I canned for the first time last summer - salsa and jam. It was quite an ordeal, but it was successful for the most part!

The hard part about water canning is that I, as a short person, had a very difficult time during the sterilization process. I somehow had to lift these jars, filled with hot water, out of a pot on the stove without spilling the water on myself. I was too short to do it properly! It was... difficult.

When I went in to work on Monday, all of these ladies that I work with gave me tons of "shortcuts". The one that I will try this year is: Instead of sterilizing jars in the water canner, sterilize jars in a hot dishwasher (sterilize setting if you have it). Leave it closed until your jam is ready on the stove, so when you take them out of the dishwasher they are still hot.

From there, the process is pretty much the same.


A canner exceedingly canny
One morning remarked to his granny
A canner can can
Anything that he can
But a canner can't can a can, can he?


Has anyone ever made and canned mustard? I made a garlic ginger mustard from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and it turned out inedibly bitter, even after letting it age. Some internet sleuthing suggested that perhaps I need to let the vinegar solution cool before marinating the mustard seeds, but ugh, I don't know. Any tips?

Also, I have a pressure canner and there are recipes for making like, prepared beef and chicken soup and canning it. And I totally want to do this with homemade seitan chunks (or even just canning plain homemade seitan chunks, because I think it could help texture-wise, make them a little more tender and so forth). But I just don't want to die from botulism. Feh.


@mustelid there's an intriguing recipe in last week's NYTimes food section about making your own (super-easy) mustard: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/dining/homemade-ketchup-mustard-and-pickles-a-good-appetite.html?_r=1

Have not tried it yet, but it's on deck!


My mom has made her own jam for years (she even picks her own berries, y'all!). I finally worked up the courage to try it myself last year and it was so much easier than I had expected (although I used store bought berries). I eat PB&J everyday for lunch so learning to make jam has kind of been the greatest thing to happen to my lunch. I also found out that my bread machine makes jam! WHAT! So far I've only made the bluberry but it's pretty bomb-diggity. Plus, when I make bread machine I have a great excuse to clean out the machine and make some bread!


I want to, but I don't really want to.


If you are intimidated by the water bath aspect, you can simply put the jars on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven at 250 for 20 minutes. Fill them while still hot, and then return them to the oven for another 15 minutes to seal them.

It really works! and is way easier and less scary than using the water bath.


steam canners are way easier, less messy, and better than the water bath. Amazon has them And an immersion blender is lazier than crushing with a fork Also skim the foam is a good idea I just forgot and am kicking myself. dog fence wire


I also found out that my bread machine makes jam! WHAT! So far I've only made the bluberry but it's pretty bomb-diggity. Plus, when I make bread machine I have a great excuse to clean out the machine and make some bread! mountain house


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